World / Middle East

Massacre in Syria's Houla ignites diplomatic frenzy

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-05-31 06:51

DAMASCUS - The recent massacre that killed over 100 people in Syria's central village of Houla has apparently hammered more nails into the coffin of the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan and opened the appetite of the super powers to divulge the possibility of military intervention in Syria had there be a consensus.

Atrocious massacre inflames combustible region

The recent attack on Houla, a group of villages 25 kilometers northwest of the central city of Homs, had claimed the lives of more than 108 people, including at least 49 children under the age of 10 and 32 women.

The Syrian government and the opposition traded barbs over the bloody attack that didn't even spare children. The Syrian government categorically denied any involvement of its troops in the carnage and accused armed groups of carrying out the killings in order to frame the government before the advent of Annan to Syria.

Opposition activists, meanwhile, accused the regime forces of shelling the village, adding that pro-government militias have done the bulk of the killings after the army's alleged bombardment.

Syria has set up an inquiry committee to probe the circumstances of the carnage to bring the assailants into trial. It said the result of the investigation should be out in three days.

Activists claimed that Houla, consisting of three Sunni villages surrounded by five Alawite ones, came under heavy shelling from Syrian forces, allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, and later on by raids and attacks from supporters of the Syrian regime who had allegedly stormed into houses and stabbed women, men and children, apparently in revenge attacks for staging anti-government protests.

Syria said the massacre only played in the hands of the armed opposition and that it was impossible for the Syrian army to get involved in such acts because it would only hurt the Assad administration and boost the argument and position of the armed rebels, who has been for a long time calling for an international military offensive on Syria as the sole way to drive out Assad.

Observers believe the Syrian army is able to demolish the armed groups in the country within a short time but said it couldn't because that would hurt many civilians in the process, given the fact that those armed groups are launching their assaults on the government troops from residential areas, meaning they are hiding in populated areas and any attack on them would hurt many innocents civilians.

The Houla massacre has come after simmering tensions between Sunni and Alawite sects, especially in the restive areas of Syria, like the central province of Homs, amid reports of mutual abduction and killings on both sides.

Such sectarian rift has also reached the Christian minority in Syria that supports the regime particularly out of worries about the show of force by ultraconservative Islamists.

Sectarian conflicts in Syria recently spilled over into neighboring Lebanon where Sunni and Alawite Muslims have been at each other's throats.

Disturbing reports have also recently emerged about the involvement of al-Qaida in the chaos in Syria. The Syrian government accused al-Qaida of capitalizing on the chaos in Syria to implement its agendas.

Simmering violence puts Annan's initiative to sleep

With both sides blaming one another for the unabated violence in the country, Annan said in Damascus Tuesday that his six-point peace plan is not being implemented as it must be. Annan said he appealed to Assad for "bold steps now -- not tomorrow, now -- to create momentum for the implementation of the plan."

Annan stressed that "the violence must stop and the six-point plan must be implemented... I need the President to act now. I need other parties to do their part."

Despite Annan's repetitive calls, the peace plan that calls primarily for a full cessation of violence in order to pave the way for a political settlement, has done little to stem the violence.

Syria said a total of 3,500 violations have been carried out by armed groups since the UN-backed cease-fire went into effect on April 12. The opposition also said that regime forces have killed hundreds since that date.

Experts said that from the very beginning, the prospect of the plan was dim, in part because the international community wasn't sincere to make the plan a success. They contended that some countries, which support the opposition movement in Syria, have done little to push their opposition allies to abide by the plan.

Other analysts said that given the variety and the de- centralization of the leadership of the armed opposition, it was impossible to guarantee a full cooperation and abidance from the entire armed elements in Syria.

The rebels Free Syrian Army has reportedly said had the international community failed to undertake measures to protect the civilians in Syria after the recent massacre. "Let the Annan's plan then go to hell," it said.

Syrians, on daily bases, sleep on the sound and the reverberations of gunfire in different parts of the country including the capital Damascus.

By the end of his visit to Syria Annan concluded that "let me finish with a message to all Syrians: I know that you want a peaceful future. We must not let the bitterness and bloodshed consume the country."

"For the sake of Syria, and for the region, we must end this violence and begin to restore hope in a political transition to a democratic future -- a future in which all communities have their place. I am totally committed to this cause and I am sure you all are."

International community grows eager to toughen measures on Syria

While Annan was still hoping for a better future for Syria, the Western countries, which have implicitly blamed Assad forces for the Houla massacre, were racing to undertake new measures against Syria, starting by expelling Syria's diplomatic missions from their countries and ending by some calls for a possible military intervention in the conflict-stricken country.

The United States and many of its allies Tuesday announced the expulsion of Syrian diplomats from their countries in a coordinated move to step up pressure on Damascus after the mass killings of civilians in Houla.

Syria's official newspapers strongly condemned the expulsion decision and regarded it as "unprecedented hysteria," warning that it would blow up Annan's six-point plan.

"It's a diplomatic frenzy... and an unprecedented hysteria," said the Baath newspaper in a front-page editorial Wednesday. The paper said the Western move was "suspicious and a blow at the heart of the international envoy's efforts."

Meanwhile, Al-Thawra newspaper also blasted the Western decision and said it's an "escalation" that aims to besiege Annan' s plan and enflame a civil war."

On the top of the expulsion decision, French President Francois Hollande didn't rule out the possibility for foreign intervention in Syria Tuesday but said such intervention requires approval from the UN Security Council.

Also, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said Tuesday he is open to discussions about military intervention in Syria but noted that it would need to be discussed "very thoroughly" and that there were significant logistical and political hurdles before intervening in the war-torn country.

However, the White House on Tuesday said again that it did not believe the time was right for military intervention in Syria, and rejected calls by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for more direct steps to end Assad's rule.

"We do not believe that militarization, further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action. We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

For its part, Russia, a key ally to Syria, warned against outside military intervention in Syria.

"To raise the possibility of some kind of military intervention is more the result of political emotions than careful consideration," Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said Wednesday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said his country will use its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block authorization for any military action in Syria, according to the official Interfax news agency.

Syrians have grown fed up with the prolonged, intractable crisis and observers eye Annan's peace plan as the solo savior for Syria had a true desire from all concerned parties was there.

Trudeau visits Sina Weibo
May gets little gasp as EU extends deadline for sufficient progress in Brexit talks
Ethiopian FM urges strengthened Ethiopia-China ties
Yemen's ex-president Saleh, relatives killed by Houthis
Most Popular
Hot Topics